Monday, September 01, 2008

the next day - keeping the little donkey happy

I meant to take a few pictures this morning while the light was good on the convalescent corner of the barn - will try again tomorrow!

We managed to get things set up yesterday in a way that I think works well for this period of confinement for Rafer Johnson. He has the front corner stall, which has a front door, back door, and window to the barnyard.

We were able to put a much smaller stall door on the front so he can see over and under, and get more air flow. I've also closed the middle stall (right next door) off to the paddock, secured the door to the barn aisle so it stays open, and removed several boards from the wall between the two stalls. This allows Salina to stay right with Rafer. She can hang her head over the stall wall now, and they can touch noses and talk. She can walk around to his front door and hang out with him there. This morning she stood with her head resting against his flank, and it was obvious her touch made him very happy.

She also has access to the barnyard where she can both graze and get some movement, which is important for her 25-year old arthritic knees. Last night she grazed a few bites at a time and then stuck her head into Rafer's stall window to nicker softly to him and let him know she was right there.

I think this set-up will keep Rafer happiest, and Salina, and will make the days not quite so difficult for him.

He's been getting Arnica since yesterday afternoon, and I've been doing a visualization for the bones to heal well. White light and Linda's (the 7msn) blue sky have been the primary components. Somehow I think it's working.

We keep a camp chair handy so we can take it in and sit with Rafer. This morning I took the grooming kit in and let him play with the brushes and rubber curries while I gave him a good brushing. He has his Jolly ball and I'm looking for something called an Amazing Graze treat dispenser. Someone suggested I actually put his day's worth of pellets inside so that he can play with the dispenser and have something to work on all through the day.

Dickens (the cowboy cat) can now walk under the stall door, and since he is one of Rafer's best buddies, he too is visiting and providing some distraction.

One of my biggest concerns was alleviated this morning, when we discovered that Rafer can indeed lie down and get up with the rig he's wearing. I was so worried he wouldn't be able to do this, and would get tired. But he can do it, and it's nice to see him stretched out sleeping just like normal.

So far his appetite is great. At some point we will get some kind of portable corral so he can join Salina in the barnyard for some grazing but still be confined safely.

It's still hard to imagine this going on for four months. But the vet reminded me yesterday: "It will be a tough four months, but that is nothing compared to the 20+ years you have to go with this wonderful little man."

On other fronts, the pony is doing a most surprising and hilarious thing with regards to his herbal mixture. He seems thrilled that he gets something morning and night now, and is intensely interested in the mix. BUT - while he sniffs and looks and pricks his ears toward the tub, he will only eat the mix if I feed it to him from my hand!

He stands right by me and I hold the small rubber tub in one arm. I scoop up a handful of the wet goopy mush and he licks it out of my hand, then licks my hand clean. Then we do another handful, until the tub is empty and I have scraped every bit from the bottom and sides. It amazes me that he is engaging this closely with me over his food, and that he trusts me enough to eat something that clearly smells very odd to him. I have a feeling this whole way of eating it is part of the treatment and the solution.

His massage was good, and we should have the acupuncturist here tomorrow or Wednesday.

All of this reminded me earlier today that one of my favorite books when I was young was Dr. Dolittle. It kind of feels like that here this past few weeks. So much going on, so much learning, so much conversing with these amazing animals.


Grey Horse Matters said...

The pony feeding sounds hilarious. I'm sure eventually he will just eat it out of the tub.
Poor Rafer, it is so good that he can have his friends Salina and Dickens visit him and help him recover. I'm sure he will be fine.

Just a quick note, we used portable round pen panels to set up an outside 'stall' within a paddock for Mellon. We used a corner to incorporate the corners of he regular fencing and then the panels to finish off a pen. He was much happier when his friends could visit and he could see them. Hope Rafer continues to improve and keep his good attitude.

jme said...

i am so glad he's settled in and doing well. it sounds like you have the perfect set-up for his rehab, and it's so great that his friends are there to keep him company. salina is so sweet. we have one horse who is unusually sensitive to others in distress and will stay close to them and try to comfort them the way she seems to be doing for rafer j.. that and all of the love and attention he's getting has to make him feel better already :-) four months goes faster than you think...

ps- i love hay nets with tiny holes for stall rest because it keeps them busy with their hay all day...

Janet Roper said...

So sorry to hear about Rafer! That's hard on us when something like that happens to those we love. It sounds like Rafer is taking it in stride, and that he has a full care staff, 2 legged and 4 legged.

Don't forget to take care of yourself during this time.

We're all sending healing and
Janet, Shiloh
Dogs Emmie & Teddy
Cats Billy, Mitzie & Raven

billie said...

Arlene, that's a great tip about using the existing corner areas with round pen panels. We could do it in each barnyard for some variety, as well as the grass paddock.

Today the pony chose to get his massage right at Rafer's stall door, Salina was hanging her head over the stall right next to him, and Keil Bay had his head hanging in from the back door. Cody was across the barn aisle and Mystic the teenaged kitten was dashing in and out. So I felt like the whole crew were truly forming a circle around little Rafer.

jme, thanks for the tip about the hay net with tiny holes - we probably need something like that for the pony too! I think if I can get some different things set up to keep Rafer busy he'll be happier - the hay net, the Jolly ball, the treat dispenser with carrot chunks or his pellets, etc.

Donkey Montessori!

He is getting very perky since the afternoon. I took a container of tiny apple and carrot chunks out and sat in his stall dispensing them one at a time over some conversation. He brightened up and was very interested and focused.

So we simply have to come up with ways to bring some engaging activity to him in the stall.

billie said...

Thank you, Janet. It's true that he has a full-care staff! I was thinking today that we would probably do a decent job of providing rehab care for horses needing it. But what a commitment! My hat is off already to those who do this kind of thing on a regular/full-time basis.

the7msn said...

Short of providing him with his own DVD player and a stack of his favorite movies, it sounds like you've got all of Rafer's needs met...and then some! How perfect that he can still be around his herd. Once you and your family have a few days of rehab under your belts, it will just be part of your daily routine. But I'll echo Janet's comment - take care of yourself now, too.

billie said...

Thanks, Linda. For the comment AND for your lovely post today. I saw it first thing this morning and it REALLY started the day off with a smile and gratitude.

I also got a big kick thinking of good thoughts coming from one set of long donkey antenna ears to another one. :)

Victoria Cummings said...

Bilie - You've got things figured out so beautifully for Rafer - I'm sure his healing will go faster thanks to the love that you and the other animals are giving him. So, now, you need to take care of yourself - This must be so stressful and you can't afford to get sick right now. Be careful and give yourself some TLC.

billie said...

Thanks, Victoria - I had a 90-minute hot stone massage yesterday, which was wonderful.

And I probably don't say this enough, but let me say it really clearly since it's even more true this week: my husband and daughter do a LOT of work when it comes to the animals. My son told me yesterday that he will try to pitch in more with household chores. So it's in no way true that I am doing all this alone.

That said, it is also true that I tend to assume I can keep everything rolling at all times. So the reminders from you and others are good - there will certainly be things that don't get done and I need to make sure taking care of my self isn't one of them. :)

Funny - Janet had a post on Elk at her blog last week and it reminded me ahead of time that I need to make sure I keep the basics in place for ME.